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Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 testing

When it comes to your health, it’s important to have all the answers. Read on for more detailed answers to some of the most common questions about COVID-19 testing.

About COVID-19

COVID-19 (formally known as 2019-nCoV) is the name for the respiratory syndrome caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, loss of smell, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feeling weak or lethargic, chills, muscle pain, lightheadedness or dizziness, headache, vomiting or diarrhea, slurred speech, and/or seizures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers many resources on COVID-19, including symptoms.

If you suspect you may have COVID-19, contact your doctor or an authorized healthcare provider immediately for guidance. Your healthcare provider can review your symptoms to determine what testing is appropriate. If COVID-19 diagnostic testing for active infection makes sense for you, your healthcare provider will direct you where to get tested. Diagnostic testing includes collecting your samples (for example, nose or throat swab). Your respiratory samples will be sent to Quest for advanced testing to determine if you are positive for COVID-19 or not.

You are considered "recovered" from COVID-19 and no longer infectious if it has been at least 10 days from start of your first symptoms, and at least 24 hours without a fever, and all other symptoms have improved.

Additionally, an antibody test may be able to detect if you have previously had an infection and already recovered—even if you never experienced symptoms. Detecting antibodies indicates you may possibly have a lower risk of getting COVID-19 again. However, more research is needed because it is not yet known how long antibodies will last after infection and whether antibodies offer short- and/or long-term protection against getting infected again.a

Quest COVID-19 testing options

Yes. Quest is one of the labs processing the complex COVID-19 testing during this public health emergency.

For diagnosis of an active COVID-19 infection, check if you’re eligible for a $0 out-of-pocket test. Testing and sample collection are available at a variety of locations, including Walmart® pharmacy drive-thrus and other participating retail locations. Those without any COVID-19 symptoms also have the option of going to select Quest Patient Service Centers. Appointments are required at all locations. If you are not eligible or want the convenience of testing at home, purchase an at-home kit through QuestDirect. Learn more about active infection testing.

Current COVID-19 infections may also be detected with a rapid antigen test. Results are typically ready in just 15 to 30 minutes. See if you’re eligible to schedule an appointment for $0 out-of-pocket testing. Limited availability. Testing is for ages 2+, regardless of symptoms. Learn more about rapid antigen testing.

If your healthcare provider is unsure if your symptoms are due to COVID-19 or flu, they may collect a single sample via nasal swab to be tested for both influenza A and B, as well as COVID-19. The test results of the COVID-19 + flu panel will rule in or rule out each of the viral infections. Learn more about the COVID-19 + flu panel.

If you may have already been exposed to COVID-19, you may be eligible for antibody testing. To get tested for COVID-19 antibodies, you can order the test for yourself via QuestDirect. This allows you to get tested without waiting to go your doctor first. Or, you can reach out to your doctor or healthcare provider and have them submit an order for your test. Learn more about antibody testing options.

Lab test accuracy is measured in two ways—specificity and sensitivity. The antibody tests currently offered by Quest Diagnostics have specificity values of 99.6% to 100% which keeps false positive results to a minimum. The antibody test sensitivity values are approximately 90% to 100%.

Quest’s antibody tests have met robust validation standards and have been granted Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) by the FDA for public health and clinical use. It is not yet known how effective this test is at detecting antibodies in those that have been vaccinated. Additionally, how long antibodies remain detectable after infection or vaccination and how long protection, if any, may last is also not known. The results of this test should not be interpreted as an indication of degree of immunity or protection.

Additionally, Quest verifies the tests using strict criteria for precision, reproducibility, accuracy, method comparison, cross-reactivity, and clinical performance.

The active infection (molecular) tests currently performed by Quest have been validated for FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the current pandemic. However, no COVID-19 active infection tests have clinical sensitivity and specificity data at this time. Learn more about the analytical validation studies to earn FDA EUA designation.

It is important to note that rapid antigen tests are less accurate than molecular tests, so your doctor may recommend a molecular test when your antigen test result does not make sense with your symptoms and exposure history. For example, when the antigen test says you are infected but you do not have symptoms (and have not been exposed recently). Another example is when your antigen test says you are not infected but you have symptoms. Rapid antigen tests have their best accuracy within 7 days of symptoms starting. Accuracy and the clinical significance of results beyond the 7 days is not known.

If you suspect you have COVID-19 or were recently in contact with someone who had it, a swab test can tell you whether you have an active infection. Knowing if you currently have COVID-19 gives you the information you need to self-isolate and protect everyone around you.

If you suspect that you had a recent or prior COVID-19 infection, even if you never showed signs of being sick, you can take an antibody blood test to confirm prior infection.

Understanding your antibody status also gives you and your healthcare provider the insight to make an informed decision about returning to activity. Other reasons why it’s beneficial to know if you are positive for COVID-19 antibodies include:

  • Track evidence of your antibodies over time
  • Encouraging those you were in contact with to talk to their doctor about getting tested
  • Reducing the need to be monitored and retested for COVID-19 infection
  • Donating plasma for those who are seriously ill from COVID-19 Learn how to donate plasma
  • Doing your part to slow the spread of the virus by being counted in global pandemic statistics

Typically, the quickest way to get your test results is having them sent to you automatically through your secure MyQuest online portal. If you don’t already have a MyQuest account, signing up is free and easy.

Yes.

Testing for an active COVID-19 infection can be purchased online through QuestDirect. If you order with QuestDirect, you can get an at-home collection kit delivered to you or make an appointment at a drive-thru collection site.

Testing for COVID-19 antibodies can be purchased online through QuestDirect. Once the test is purchased, you can make an appointment at a Quest patient service center if you have been symptom-free for at least 10 days.

The cost of tests through QuestDirect cannot be submitted to health insurance.

Pooling is a testing technique that allows the lab to mix a portion of several patient samples together (up to 4 in the Quest test) to create one “pooled” sample for testing. If the pooled sample is negative, that indicates all the patient samples are negative. If the pooled sample is positive (or invalid/inconclusive), then each patient sample is tested again individually to identify which is positive. Pooling helps labs get more testing done faster. It is useful for testing groups of people that are unlikely to have a high number of positive results. For example, pooling is used by blood banks to test blood donations for a variety of viruses. Pooling and other lab innovations have increased Quest’s ability to meet the demand for COVID-19 testing across the country.

Peace of mind at Quest locations

It depends on the type of test you need.

Testing for active COVID-19 infection is not performed at Quest patient service centers. If you suspect you have COVID-19, check if you’re eligible for a $0 out-of-pocket active infection or rapid antigen test. If you are not eligible or want the convenience of testing at home, purchase an active infection at-home kit through QuestDirect. Active infection and rapid antigen testing includes collecting your test sample, usually through a nose or throat swab. Those respiratory samples are then sent to Quest labs to process the tests.

Testing to distinguish between COVID-19 infection and influenza is not performed at Quest patient service centers. If you are unsure if your symptoms are due to COVID-19 or flu, your healthcare provider may collect a single sample via nasal swab to be tested for both influenza A and B, as well as COVID-19.

Testing for COVID-19 antibodies can be performed at Quest patient service centers with an appointment if you have been symptom-free for at least 10 days. You must have a doctor’s order or purchase the test through QuestDirect to make an appointment for COVID-19 antibody testing.

Quest has strong safety procedures in place at all times. These protect patients and employees from coming into contact with any infectious diseases. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, we have taken more precautions with our new Peace of Mind program that makes it easier to access the testing you need from Quest.

Peace of Mind measures include:

  • Providing gloves to patients to use touchscreen kiosks
  • Requiring face masks for all patients and employees, even if you got the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Encouraging online scheduling
  • Offering a text alert option that allows patients to wait for appointments outside
  • Limiting the number of people, prioritizing appointments, and spacing out chairs in waiting rooms

Also, patients who suspect they have active COVID-19 should not come to our Patient Service Centers. They should contact their doctor or an authorized healthcare provider.

Yes, Quest has a history of providing advanced infectious disease testing during public health emergencies. Quest was the first national commercial provider to offer Zika and 2009 H1N1 influenza testing, which was emergency-use authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Today, Quest brings that same level of urgency and care to COVID-19 testing for you and your family. Learn more about infectious disease testing.

Yes. Quest has steadily increased COVID-19 testing capacity to meet the growing demand from patients, hospitals, and healthcare providers in our communities.


Explore COVID-19 test options

a Positive results with the antibody test may occur after COVID-19 vaccination, but the clinical significance is not yet known. How long antibodies remain detectable after infection or vaccination and how long protection, if any, may last is not yet known. The results of this test should not be interpreted as an indication of degree of immunity or protection.

b Rapid antigen tests are less accurate than molecular tests, so your doctor may recommend a molecular test when your antigen test result does not make sense with your symptoms and exposure history. For example, when the antigen test says you are infected but you do not have symptoms (and have not been exposed recently). Another example is when your antigen test says you are not infected but you have symptoms. Rapid antigen tests have their best accuracy within 7 days of symptoms starting. Accuracy and the clinical significance of results beyond the 7 days is not known.

 

COVID-19 testing statements

  • The antibody tests, molecular tests, and antigen tests (together “All tests”) have not been FDA cleared or approved;
  • All tests have been authorized by FDA under EUAs for use by authorized laboratories;
  • The antibody tests have been authorized only for the detection of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens; 
  • The molecular tests have been authorized only for the detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens;
  • The antigen tests have been authorized only for the detection of proteins from SARS-CoV-2, and not for any other viruses or pathogens; and  
  • All tests are only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner.
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About the FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Status

This test has been authorized by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This means that while Quest Diagnostics has validated the test and has the data to believe the test and the collection kit are accurate, this test has not been FDA cleared or approved; this test has been authorized by FDA under an EUA for use by authorized laboratories; this test has been authorized only for the detection of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens; and, this test is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(B)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360BBB-3(B)(1), unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner. Additional studies need to be conducted for this test and others like it to be FDA cleared or approved. 

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Regardless of your test result, you should discuss your results with your doctor and continue to follow any safety precautions recommended by public health experts. This can help you and your community better manage the risks and benefits of resuming daily activities.

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